Capitals racing against the clock

Capitals racing against the clock
April 3, 2013, 9:15 am
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George McPhee was a little coy last week when asked about the Capitals’ plan leading up to today’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

“We have some ideas,” McPhee told reporters gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the Caps will practice today while McPhee burns up his allowable cell phone minutes.

“There may be nothing happening, there may be a lot happening. I don’t know until we get in there and people start deciding what they really want to do.”

Considering the Capitals’ recent 5-1-1 run and the flurry of trade activity NOT involving them, it’s a safe bet McPhee is leaning on the side of “nothing happening.”

And that means Mike Ribeiro is likely to be a Washington Capital when the clock strikes 3:01 p.m. today.

If you can read between the lines, McPhee said as much last week. When pressed on whether Ribeiro would be used as trade bait, McPhee said, “ We want to make the playoffs. And that’s the plan going into the trading deadline. What can we do what’s best for the organization that helps us make the playoffs?”

The answer, of course, is you buy.

Thanks to spectacular 10-game nosedives by the Winnipeg Jets [3-7-0] and Carolina Hurricanes [1-8-1] the Capitals find themselves two points out of the Southeast Division lead with 12 games to play and two games in hand on the Jets.

The Caps have gone 15-9-1 since their 2-8-1 start and look like a team that could make some noise in the playoffs if they can just get in the door.

In other words, these are not the 2004 Capitals that required a firesale of Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra,  Robert Lang and Sergei Gonchar.

 In fact, with about $7 million of cap space, McPhee should be scouring the NHL for a scoring winger that can give the Caps an offensive jolt heading into the final dozen games of the season.

Jagr would have been nice, but he went to the Bruins. Brenden Morrow would have been good, too, but he went to the Penguins.

[As an aside, one Eastern Conference general manager told me last week, “There’s Pittsburgh and Boston, and then there’s the rest of us.”]

So you’re next question is, who’s left, right?

Well, there’s Coyotes left wing Raffi Torres, but he has just five goals in 28 games. Calgary center Mike Cammalleri is rumored to be on the block, but he’s a playmaking center and the Caps have two of them. Islanders right wing Brad Boyes would be a nice pickup, but the Isles are in eighth place and are more in a position to buy than sell.

So, what about Ales Hemsky, a 29-year-old right wing who has nine goals in 34 games for the Oilers? He’s got another year, at $5 million, left on his contract and that might deter the Caps.

Thomas Vanek? He leads Buffalo with 16 goals and has a deadly shot, but he’s on the hook for $7.1 million next season.

McPhee said he still believes there are “hockey trades” to be made [as opposed to contract trades] and that he’ll do his best to make the Caps a better team heading into the playoffs.

The next several hours will determine is there’s one or two to be made.

“I simply make decisions based on what’s best for the organization, and the individual comes a close second,” he said. “… That’s how we approach the deadline.”